Is it only us or are we hearing about strikes more often than not. The uncertain global economic circumstances have made issues of labour agreements and wages more relevant than usual. Just think back, first there was a lock out by Canada Post, then Air Canada employees weren’t happy with the negotiations between Air Canada and the unions that represented baggage handlers, pilots etc. Canadian Pacific Railway employees were the next to strike.
Provincially, the teachers and the doctors are next in line. Although Catholic school teachers and the Government of Ontario did successfully came to an agreement, other teachers’ union are thoroughly displeased.
Ontario and the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) have signed a memorandum of understanding for a two-year agreement that will protect the classroom experience for students as well as the gains made in education.
“We have made a deliberate choice in this process — a choice to protect the gains we have made in education and to work with our partners, as we’ve done for the past four months. These were never going to be easy discussions, but I’m pleased that after months of difficult talks, we were able to reach an agreement with OECTA. It’s an example of how teachers can successfully enter into such discussions with government that result in solutions that both protect student achievement and help us meet our fiscal targets,” stated Minister Laurel Broten.
The agreement includes:
- Zero per cent salary increases in 2012-13 and 2013-14.
- All teachers will take a 1.5 per cent pay cut in the form of three unpaid professional development days so that younger teachers will continue to be recognized through the grid for their experience and additional qualifications.
- Agreement to restructure the grid with a view to long-term, sustainable savings.
- Elimination of the current retirement gratuity for payment of unused sick days that was responsible for a $1.7-billion liability for school boards.
- A restructured short-term sick leave plan that would include up to 10 sick days.
- The sick leave plan would benefit younger teachers by providing income protection for serious illness and improved maternity leave provisions.
- Agreement to address non-monetary issues including the development of a fair and transparent hiring process for long-term occasional teachers.
However, Ken Coran, president of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, says the English Catholic teachers’ deal is not good enough for his members.
“I am basically shocked, dismayed, disheartened, upset and on occasions angry at the way this labour relations process has unfolded,” Coran said at a joint press conference Friday.
“This basically is a free-for-all in negotiations. We don’t like it.”
On the other hand, Progressive Conservatives continue to tout the Ontario PCs’ ideas for labour market reforms. They claim that union bosses are more interested in raking in dues and swelling their ranks than in economic opportunity for their members, Kitchener-Conestoga MPP Michael Harris said.
“One week now since the launch of Paths to Prosperity: Flexible Labour Markets – and the picture is clear,” PC MPP Michael Harris said. “People with a stake in old-fashioned union politics reject it because it demands transparency from the union bosses. People with a stake in a more prosperous Ontario have embraced it as a roadmap for job creation and greater competitiveness.
“Union bosses Smokey Thomas, Sid Ryan and Ken Lewenza have spoken out strongly in favour of a labour market that puts union power ahead of economic opportunity for their members,” Harris noted. “By contrast, their friend the Premier has been silent. We would welcome a clear statement on what he puts first: his union sponsors or Ontario jobs and competitiveness.
“And we challenge all of them to explain why a more modern and flexible labour market won’t create jobs, boost our competitiveness and attract new investment to Ontario – and why they think union expenses should not be transparent to their membership. After all, under the status quo the number of jobless is nearing 600,000 and Ontario wage growth is dead last in Canada.”
These are a little more known agreement, or should we call them disagreements as some of the institutions were forced back by the threat of “back to work legislation.”
Regional Council ratified the Collective Agreements between the Regional Municipality of Peel and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Local 966 representing employees in Human Services and TransHelp. Today the Return to Work protocols were signed and approved by CUPE members in Human Services and TransHelp.
“We welcome the news that our unionized Human Services and TransHelp employees will be returning back to work next week,” said Regional Chair and CEO Emil Kolb. “As a government, we are responsible for using taxpayer dollars efficiently and we are pleased that we were able to negotiate fair and equitable agreements for our staff.”
Perhaps all this debate begs the question to debate labour laws as many families struggle to pay off their bills. But one must not forget that people who are represented by unions also have families to feed and take care of. Furthermore, the unions also need to be mindful of economic realities of the day.